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The Rule of the Playground

Genre: Young Adult | Comic | Comedy |

Kiefer Bloodman is a troubled child. A misfit and social outcast at best, the Rule of the Playground, “survival of the fittest”, has become an ingrained way of life for him. But where lies the balance between “survival” and “schoolyard bully”?

This four-paged character study about childhood societal pressure vs. authentic expression was produced and presented for the online-based course, How to Make a Comic Book, led by artist and mentor, Patrick Yurick (of Making Comics fame).

Click here to start reading.

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The Art of Self Forgiveness

Last week, we discussed matters of regret as an artist, and how everything would eventually be okay and work itself out. This week we’re going to delve deeper into this hopeful notion with the first in a series of companion pieces.

When I wrote that all of us artists are in this journey together, it wasn’t coming from any hokey place of optimistic naivety. The fact is, no matter the medium, no matter the level of expertise or apprenticeship, we have all faced the mental and external obstacles of insecurity.

Mental illness is a hot button topic now, and artists tend to be notorious for self sabotage and destructiveness to their own well being. Depression and anxiety are among the top noted symptoms among struggling artists. Despite what you may think, what the media and masturbatory social platforms such as tumblr and reddit have told you, these symptoms are in fact beatable, if not manageable. All it takes is a little self awareness and a push in the right direction.

So over the next little while, we’re going to work together to explore a few steps that are easier said than done, in order to achieve successful artistry. Remember: you cannot be truly successful in life unless you build from the inside, outward.

During this time, I will be compiling a resource page that has aggregated various online utilities and mentors that will help you discover your innate creative self, and build confidence to stem from that.

Let’s begin.

Step one: The Art of Self Forgiveness

This is one of the most powerful tools when it comes to achieving your true potential. For most of us, it feels impossible to even fathom such a thing as self forgiveness, because we are so used to living an existence of constant internal and external criticism,  lacking self confidence and self worth, and torrents of disappointment despite our output of effort.

One of the most important first steps in this process of self forgiveness is to recognize that everything that has happened to you in your life is a result of your own doing.

When we are faced with failure in life, it is easy to blame our parents, blame our business partners, spouses – even children. We blame mental illness, financial insufficiency, the very cultures we were born into or assimilated with. It is so easy to pass the buck onto other people when faced with the reality of our own undoing.

But the fact is, the only person who put you in those situations is you. Despite what you want to think, the gun pressed against your head is in your very hands.

And most people will refuse to believe this. They’ll scoff, and maybe write a comment down below to justify their detrimental behaviour, and close the browser tab to move onto Facebook or YouTube or something else completely vacuous and unproductive. And that’s fine. Hopefully they will come to the realization a little later on.

But for those of you who want to take responsibility for yourselves, there is nothing stopping you from personal growth; from pushing yourself out of your comfort zones – to stop, take a breath, and say aloud, “No. No. I deserve better than this, and I will not settle until that happens.”

We are our own obstacles in life, and as you sit on the edge of your bed late at night reading this, feelings of guilt and regret are sure to have set in. The inner critic comes around and shows you everything that has gone wrong in your life. But you’ve made plenty of excuses to last an eternity – it’s time to forgive yourself and push onward to greater things.

The first step is self forgiveness. And self forgiveness is responsibility for the self, to reflect on one’s own actions without anger, without remorse, without guilt or judging. See your actions for what they are, and learn from your mistakes.

The mistakes you’ve made will serve a great illumination for the path you must follow. And from that, self forgiveness.

 

 

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Admiration of the Self

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I’ve never quite taken the time to admire my body before. You see women and young girls alike do this in the mirror all the time – it is, at least in movies and TV, one of our most favourite past-times, second to chasing after abusive relationships and in deep meditation over which brand and colour of shoes we should buy this week (thankfully, this ugly trend in media is starting to shift, to great degrees of empowerment).

 

But this particular expenditure of time – admiring myself – wasn’t something I really allowed myself to do. Oh, sure, you look yourself over when doing your hair, or makeup, or whatever. You look yourself over when you’re obsessed with finding that invisible (and likely non-existent) speck of lunch between your teeth – but never have I really stopped to look at myself. To confirm myself, let fall away the flaws, to look myself seriously eye-to-eye, smile, and mean it.

 

When you’re going through a personal transformation, be it something major like realizing you’re transgender, or even something super-minor like “what would my hair look straightened today?” (okay somewhat-minor, not really), it can be difficult, sometimes near impossible, to see the bright side of uncertainty.

 

The fact is, life is full of uncertainty. People try to beat this out by indulging in the constant chase that is “knowledge”, in preparation for everything and everything. But what does this produce? Just a bunch of know-it-alls (I’m sorry, apparently they’re called experts) who, despite all their research on various topics, will still find themselves in the midst of “fight of flight” when the very realness of uncertainty comes to knock at their door.

 

On the same coin, we’re so busy as a culture self-fellating when it comes to everything “wrong” with our lives and how we don’t have enough as it is. The consistency in which we compare, contrast, judge, resent, and envy those around us, that we don’t stop enough to really look at ourselves in the mirror and accept where we’re at and, most importantly, love ourselves for where we’re at.

 

Gonna tell you a little story. So buckle in and get your Dollarama-certified reading glasses out. Ready? Got your tea or water in hand? Snacks all good? Aight.

 

Little Glass House

I was born prematurely, with a bucketful of medical issues. My mother’s cesarean brought forth an inky-dinky seven-month fetus so small, I just fit the length of my father’s hand. Underdevelopments, surgeries, complications, all to spend the first two months of my life in an incubator. Doctors were so skeptical of my survival, that my baptism took place at the hospital, with only my parents, my godmother, and the staff present – just in case.

 

But, obviously, things worked out. Whew! Turns out this 2-pounds, 5-ounce premie had been scooped out a fighter, and kicked some major ass, despite all odds.

At the time of this post’s original draft, back in 2014, I found great difficulty in confiding to friends and family about my journey to transition from male to female (which I termed “regeneration”, after binging Doctor Who episodes on Netflix), because, deep down, not being a cis-gendered woman brought me great shame. In the original draft, I wrote: Even when I do eventually come to fully regenerate, I still won’t be a cis-gendered woman. And that really kills. I had become ashamed of the body I fought so hard to keep alive.

 

Journey of Self Acualization

During that time, I’d just delved into the surface of personal development, consuming all superficial forms of “growth”, from personal Facebook feed quotes, to base self-help books, to even shows like FX’s Wilfred, starring Elijah Wood.

 

But it wasn’t enough. Fear had kept me rooted to the ground for a long time. No matter the amount of inspirational quotes, the number of personal pep rallies I’d hosted in my mind, I couldn’t move forward. Even though it was clear what had to be done and what my desires were, when time came to “fight or flight”, I couldn’t budge, couldn’t free myself.

 

Then one day, while scrolling Facebook for daily inspiration, a particular quote macro roved into eyesight and changed my attitude forever:

 

Knowing is not enough; we must Apply.
Willing is not enough; we must Do.
– Bruce Lee

 

Bruce Lee. Master of self discipline. Contemporary of self empowerment. That guy knew what had to be done, wasn’t afraid to get shit done, and didn’t care who was around to see or judge.

 

The fact is, uncertainty got the best of me. Even though I wanted more out of life, and knew I was meant for greater purpose, I was not applying myself. I was not putting into practice  tools like vulnerability that, deep down, would help me to grow in the way I needed to.

 

It’s true. I do talk to Wilfred – He’s the only one actually helping me

The best example of this is the season 2 episode of Wilfred, when Ryan consumes that imported self-reflection weed when he’s trying to figure out why Kristen’s baby freaks him out.

 

In the episode, Ryan’s high brings him to a plane of subconscious existence, where he’s met by a spirit guide. Ryan is very willing to allow himself to be led by the spirit guide. But Wilfred appears, representing Ryan’s resistance and denial, self-hate and pride – fear of the unknown – so desperate to tug Ryan back to what was safe, what was known. It’s a strange dichotomy, considering in the reality of the show, Wilfred constantly pushes Ryan out of his comfort zone, hell or high water, to guide him on a path of self acceptance and authenticity.

 

For most people, letting go of yourself is drowned out by  the torrential need need for control, the sense of fearful self-consciousness, the want to be liked and validated. It’s like attempting to keep atop a bucking rodeo bronco. But what it all comes down to is self-confidence. And most of us, while confident in certain areas in our lives, are not at all confident when it comes to our souls, our personal expression, who we truly are in the presence of others – especially in the presence of uncertainty.

 

So one day after having read that Bruce Lee quote, I made a vow to at least try to exorcize these inner demons. People do this in a dozen-thousand different ways: blogging, making art, meditating (which is a wonderful habit that you should really consider investing in).

 

What did I do? I smoked a load of weed and decided to get dressed.

 

Seriously. When it comes to the ideology of personal development the quote that “weed shows you who you are” stands firmly true in most every case. I’m not going to wax poetic on the benefits of toking – because, let’s be honest, Cheech and Chong’s fan base do enough of that already on the duo’s respective Facebook pages – but what I will say is that marijuana put me in tune with me – intense negative feelings, insecurities, self-destructive thoughts – complete awareness of depression. These were the demons that needed to be tangled with.

 

The Power of Self Compels You

My choice of wardrobe had every little bit a part in this downward spiral of toxicity in my life. Usually I throw on jeans, a t-shirt, and sometimes some plaid flannel. I’d fall into “guy mode” and automatically fit the behavioral bill in an attempt at “survival”, whatever that meant.

 

But that day, I decided to wear whatever in the blue blazing hell I damn well wanted to. There were old goth clothes I’d only worn a couple of times, that no longer really fit anymore. I said fuck it and put them on, anyway. When I took a look in my parents’ full-sized closet mirrors, I froze for a moment. Paused, like a movie.

 

The person who stared back wore a fearless expression. Her eyes were confident, hard-set, with a resting bitch face that could send Agatha Trunchbull, herself, out a classroom window. This reflection wasn’t anybody I’d recognized before. She looked damn good. A smile broke across her face. She was confident as all fuck.

 

I’ve never felt confident in my life, and I could see it so clearly in my eyes, my posture. I looked like a strong woman. An empowered woman. I looked myself in the eye. These were my eyes. They were not sad eyes. These were the eyes of confidence. I saw before me a woman who was sure of herself, who accepted herself as she was – flaws and all. Despite the “threat” of uncertainty, this woman didn’t even bat a goddamn eye.

 

My reflection smiled at me, and meant it.

 

Just Leap off the Edge, My Love – and Fly

If you’re a person who struggles with self acceptance, who wants desperately to find fulfillment in self-love but doesn’t know how to achieve it, don’t despair. We’re all in this together. All it takes is a solid look in the mirror. It’s easy to focus on the negative aspects of our bodies, be we cis-gendered or transgendered. But that sort of focus doesn’t help. Work towards seeing yourself for you, not judgmental of whatever stares back in your reflection, and stand tall in that.

 

Stand tall in your you-ness. Accept yourself for who you are, for where your at. Don’t let the fear of uncertainty get you between its claws. It takes a lot of hard work and a ton of dedication, but it IS POSSIBLE to break free, to shine in your you-ness.

 

All it takes is the courage to stand in front of the mirror and tell whatever stares back that self-appointed love and acceptance are readily available.

 

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